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Polling: It’s Not Just for the Primaries

By: Alisa Marie Beyer
Posted: March 3, 2010, from the March 2010 issue of GCI Magazine.

Consumer polling. Sounds like a complicated, expensive, drawn-out affair. But would you like to know a little secret? The cost of not taking the time to reach out to your consumers and know what they are thinking will cost you far more in the long run than the investment in a focus group, online survey or quantitative study will cost to field. The need to know your consumers is not just good business, it’s critical. In spite of all the effort and expense laid out to communicate your message and brand to consumers, the message isn’t always getting across. The Benchmarking Company’s (TBC) Survival of the Prettiest Pink Report showed that more than 79% of women still aren’t sure if they are purchasing prestige skin care or not. Add to that the fact that more than 91% of women feel that advertisers don’t understand them, and it’s clear that getting to the heart of these consumer disconnects should be a driving business strategy for every brand—be it prestige, mass or both.

Luckily, reaching out to your consumers and taking a pulse on what they think of you, your brand, your message and even your product offering is remarkably streamlined and accessible these days. Whether you choose to engage in a formal focus group, to reach out to consumers via an online survey or seek out information by tapping into social networking channels, consumers have an opinion. And chances are, they are just waiting to share it with you.

What Can You Learn?

In addition to letting you know what consumers think of your brand, polling data gives you access to the very heart of your consumers, namely: Who are your customers? Where do they live? What cars do they drive? Take their lattes with sugar or only shop at Trader Joe’s? The glimpse that polling can provide sets brands up to not only understanding what their consumers think about their products, but know who their consumers actually are, and to be in a position of strength to proactively use this information.

Comprehensively polling your target consumers can yield a treasure trove of information that is immediately usable and actionable. Recently, TBC conducted an online survey testing women’s perceptions of aging. In addition to querying their thoughts on what aging means (or does not), participants were also asked to answer a host of lifestyle questions, providing a fascinating peek into how the participants live their daily lives. Along with questions about beauty regimens, favorite skin care products and antiaging perceptions, TBC specifically built the survey to include lifestyle questions that would tell it more about the consumers: Who are they? How do they live? What do they like to do with their spare time? Questions such as:

The data gleaned from these answers provides brands with more than just a snapshot of consumers, it answers pivotal questions. Who are your consumers? Where do you need to advertise to capture their attention or how can you re-engage them once they’re already a fan of your brand? With the rapidly changing pace of communication these days, what was once a sure-fire way to capture consumer interest (in-store events or magazine ads) has all but become extinct. In order to both know your consumers and stay ahead of their needs and wants, you must ask the right questions before you are in-market.